Exhibition of Children's Drawings from the Darfur Crisis Opens at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs

NEW YORK, February 3, 2006 An exhibition entitled “‘Smallest Witnesses’: The Crisis in Darfur Through Children’s Eyes,” will open next week at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. The exhibition, organized by Columbia’s Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research and Human Rights Watch (HRW), will be on display in the 4th Floor (entry-level) Atrium Area of Columbia’s International Affairs Building from February 6 through March 10.

20060203_darfur Photo by Jonas Steengaard for Human Rights Watch

The conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur is widely considered to be one of the most serious ongoing human rights and humanitarian crises in the world. Under the pretext of suppressing an internal rebellion, Sudanese soldiers and government-backed Janjaweed militias have committed massacres, summary executions, acts of sexual violence, the burning of villages and towns, and other crimes against humanity documented by Human Rights Watch and other human rights NGOs. An estimated 2.4 million people have been displaced since the beginning of the conflict in 2003, and as many as 180,000 may have died, according to United Nations figures.

The exhibition features drawings collected during a recent Human Rights Watch mission to refugee camps along Darfur’s border with Chad, after HRW researchers gave children pens and crayons to draw while their families were being interviewed. Without prompting or guidance, the children produced vivid and disturbing scenes of the violence and atrocities they had witnessed: attacks by the Janjaweed militias, aerial bombings, rapes, the destruction of villages and the refugees’ flight to Chad. The children’s drawings corroborate in chilling detail the eye-witness testimonies about crimes against humanity in Darfur that Human Rights Watch has been documenting for months, and thus represent a valuable graphic record of the ongoing human rights crisis.

The Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research (CHRDR) at Columbia University is an international documentation center for the global human rights movement. Administered by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Center has been established to preserve and make publicly available the archives of major Human Rights NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA, and will feature professional archiving staff, a depositor advisory board, and a program of human rights lectures, exhibitions, conferences, and other activities. The CHRDR archives will complement Columbia’s existing human rights programs, many of which will draw on its resources for teaching and research.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international monitoring organization based in New York, with offices in Washington, London, Brussels, Moscow, Geneva, and several other cities around the world. It conducts research into human rights conditions in more than 70 countries around the world, and publishes its findings in dozens of reports every year. Human Rights Watch has an annual budget of $22 million and a staff of nearly 200 people.

The School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University is a graduate professional school established in 1946 for the purpose of training students for careers in such fields as international business and banking, government service, international organizations, and journalism. The School aims to provide an academic environment where the world’s pathways of learning, policy, and action converge. At SIPA, a major university connects in countless ways with the nation’s largest city, and with economic and political networks that span the globe.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/ is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

02/03/06 ICL